Nashville mayor’s goal for mass transit is a bold one

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A few years ago, former mayor Karl Dean began the conversation about mass transit with the failed AMP rapid transit bus system.

This year, Mayor Megan Barry became the architect of mass transit, unveiling a $6 billion regional plan to help solve the traffic woes Nashville commuters face every morning and afternoon.

There’s too much traffic, too much congestion, and too many cars.

“Getting people out of their cars and onto the light rail is going to be critical,” the mayor said.

Barry’s goal for mass transit is bold.

“Well, in 10 years, I would like to have a light rail running down all of our major corridors. We’ve seen it happen in Denver. I absolutely believe it’s possible, but it means we have to start now,” she told News 2.

(Courtesy: RTD Denver)

Nashville wants to begin with a light rail down Gallatin Pike through East Nashville, and then expand it to Murfreesboro Road, Nolensville Road, and Charlotte Pike.

The next goal would be to extend it north to Clarksville and south to Murfreesboro.

“Fifty percent of the folks who work in Davidson county don’t live here, so getting them in and out from these different counties is going to be key, but I think Nashville has to lead, and we have to be the first one out there,” Mayor Barry said.

She continued, “And I think what we will see, based on all the conversations have with regional mayors, everyone will follow”

A light rail system will be expensive, and Mayor Barry expects little funding from Washington.

“We have not seen a significant amount of dollars that would flow to local municipalities from the federal government at the moment, though we are doing everything we could to qualify for those dollars if they were ever to become available, but we really think this is going to be on us,” she explained.

(Courtesy: RTD Denver)

“On us” means a local referendum, a cost to taxpayers. But will those taxpayers agree to pay more for mass transit?

The mayor believes they will.

“I think Nashvillians, when given the opportunity to vote, have always stepped up and voted the right way, and we’ve got a history of that. Voting yes for NFL, voting down English only… the things that we put to the voters. I think voters have said, ‘This is the time, and this is what we need to do,’ and they will do the same thing,” Barry explained.

The Denver light rail is the model Nashville would like to copy. It was launched 23 years ago, and it will take some time for Music City to do the same.

A referendum to fund the mass transit plan will take place sometime next year.

Follow our Nashville 2017 coverage about the city’s growth, the issues that come with it, and how people are tackling them.

Watch our News 2 Town Hall Meeting: Trains, Planes and Automobiles at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.